Gear Closet: Jabra Sport Wireless+ Earbuds

If you’re like me, you enjoy listening to music, audio books or podcasts while working out. Nearly every time I hit the road for a long run I have my iPod strapped to my arm and a pair of earbuds in my ears to help keep me entertained and distracted as I pile up the miles. Over the years, I’ve learned that the right music can really set the tempo on faster runs and that interesting audio programs can help grind out the distances on a the longer ones. A good pair of earphones can make all the difference as well, which is why I have recently been testing the new Sport Wireless+ headset from Jabra, a device that connects via Bluetooth to your smartphone or iPod and allows you to listen to your favorite tunes completely wirelessly.

Paring the Sport Wireless+ earbuds with your device is incredibly easy. You simply switch the headphones on and then select the Bluetooth set-up options from your gadget. After selecting the earbuds from the listed options, the two devices will communicate with one another and within a matter of seconds you’ll be able to send music or any other audio source to the earbuds wirelessly from up to 30 feet away. Onboard controls will also let you quickly adjust volume, pause and start your music, pick-up phone calls, interact with Siri and so on. All of those controls are located on the right earbud, which makes theme easy to reach and adjust without having to look at them.

Getting a good fit is always important when using earbuds and thankfully Jabra has provided plenty of options for finding a comfortable configuration. The Sport Wireless+ ships with seven sets of soft, silicon tips in various shapes and sizes, allowing the user to find exactly the right combination for their needs. It took me a couple of runs to figure out which were the mot comfortable for me but once I did, the earbuds felt great and stayed locked in no matter how far I was running.

In terms of sound quality, these earbuds are solid and sound good, but you can definitely tell that the audio source is being provided wirelessly. When using traditional wired earbuds my music and podcasts definitely come through more cleanly and crisply, although once I’m running I didn’t really notice it all that much. The Sport Wireless+ are plenty loud and can provide solid isolation from outside noise, but on occasion they’ll break up and momentarily loose their connection, something that doesn’t happen with a pair of regular earbuds unless there is a short in the wiring somewhere.

Personally, I found the Sport Wireless+ earbuds quite comfortable to wear and after just a run or two, I found myself really liking the fact that I didn’t have an annoying cable running to my iPod. It was refreshing to move without restrictions and while that thin cable that comes with traditional earbuds may not seem like much, when it isn’t their you’ll discover how substantial it actually is.

For the most part, these headphones work great, are comfortable to wear and provide solid, if somewhat unremarkable sound. But if I have one knock against them, it is their battery life. Jabra rates them for about 4 hours of use and during my testing I’d say that is fairly accurate, if a bit on the high end. That means that after just a longer run or two it is time to recharge the headset or you’ll end up like me and have them run out of juice mid-workout. The battery life is so low in fact that most of us wouldn’t get through a marathon on a single charge, let alone an ultra-run of any sort. And if you forget to recharge them every couple of days, you’re stuck going back to the wired earbuds. I would have liked to have seen far better battery life but I know that compromises needed to be made in order to squeeze all of the technology into such a small package. The Sport Wireless+ also use the Bluetooth 3.0 feature set, which is mature and robust, but doesn’t sip power the way newer Bluetooth 4.0 devices do.

The recharge time on these earbuds is only about 2.5 hours, which isn’t all that long in the grand scheme of things. But I now have to make sure my iPod is charged, my GPS watch has enough battery life and my earbuds as well. That’s an awful lot of gadget to keep energized for my workouts.

Jabra did build the Sport Wireless+ earbuds with outdoor athletes in mind. They feel solid and durable for day to day use and they are designed to resist rain, dust and being dropped. They certainly don’t feel flimsy in your hand and I think you’ll appreciate just how durable they are.

If you’re looking for a solid pair of wireless headphones and you can deal with the short battery life, than I think you’ll find that these are an excellent option. They are comfortable to wear, even on extended runs, and the fact that you can ditch the audio cable is very liberating. Jabra prices the Sport Wireless+ headphones at $99, which is not far out of the price range of some of the top end traditional wired models. Better yet, these earbuds can be found online at a substantially reduced price, which makes them a great bargain and easy to recommend.

Kraig Becker